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Friday, April 1, 2016

March Reading Summary

My theme for reading for March was basically sociology and culture, the 300's of the Dewey Decimal System.  I enjoyed a number of books, some more than others.

The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur, by Thomas Bulfinch

Photo Credit Wikipedia; London
Film Museum
I listened to this on CD's as I ran errands around town in my car. I stuck with it longer than I would have if I had been reading it.  It was kind of interesting in that I now have a better idea of the characters of Camelot--King Arthur and his valiant knights, the lady Guinevere, Tristram and Isolde, Lancelot, Geraint, Gawain, and Lord Bort.  Never heard of Lord Bort?  Neither had I.
My overall impression of the tales is that they get repetitive after a while.   
My second overall impression of the knights is that they are a bunch of thugs riding around looking for trouble. If they see an underdog in trouble, they'll defend him even without a clue who any of the people are. The usual result is to find either that the one they are defending is a long-lost cousin or brother, or that he is the knight's worst enemy, in which case they have to arrange a time for a fair fight after they've healed from present wounds, whereupon the knight either vanquishes the enemy in the fight, or the enemy is a coward who fails to show up. 
The ladies, "fair damsels" have much more power than we would think.  A knight is honor-bound to defend any lady in distress--and there are lots of them! Everywhere they go, these knights find fair ladies to rescue.  Some of the women seem very manipulative. They twist those poor misguided knights right around their little fingers, getting them to do their bidding with little effort. 
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
They have an interesting belief in both magic and religion. Merlin figures greatly and yet so does prayer and confession, and, especially in the Welsh tales, the knights greet each other with wishes for Heaven's blessing. At the same time, there is the lady of the lake, the sword Arthur pulls out of a stone, and a magic fountain. 
The story of Percival is actually very humorous. He is naive and foolish, but everything comes out right. He lives with his mother in the middle of nowhere, but later a sister mysteriously appears in another story. 
Like television characters, they are near death, cut and bleeding everywhere, yet up they pop in another episode. Unlike TV, there is no problem with renewing contracts at the end of the season, so the same characters exist throughout the tales, coming and going at varied intervals.
The Welsh tales and the English tales have many of the same characters. 
Replacement Child, by Judy L. Mandel
This book is the memoirs of Judy Mandel, whose sister was killed by an airplane that crashed into her family's apartment building in New Jersey in 1952, before she was born. Her other sister, Linda, age 2 at the time, was badly burned.  Judy wrote the book to try to make sense of the accident and its effects on her family and her personal development.
Though tiresome in places, it is an interesting reflection on third child syndrome taken to the extreme.  Not only is she held up to the example of her perfect, now deceased, older sister, but much of her parents' attention goes to making sure that Linda gets the medical help she needs, as well as working within her school and her neighborhood to make sure she is accepted and makes friends. Her father seems preoccupied with her safety but she finds acceptance and approval from him through music.
The book is kind of bouncy. It jumps around from 1950 to the 1960's and up to 2006 and then back again, hitting various decades with no seeming reason.
Judy Blume has written a book, In the Unlikely Event, based on the plane crashes. 
Given that this post is already long, I will save reviewing the other books for tomorrow or the next day. Meanwhile, off to April--Languages!

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